All Smiles for Team USA at 2016 Walter Hayes Trophy

Team USA scholarship drivers Oliver Askew and Kyle Kirkwood finished second and fourth at the prestigious Walter Hayes Trophy Formula Ford 1600 two-day event at Silverstone last weekend.

In the 16th running of the annual event at the home of the British Formula One Grand Prix, the Team USA drivers, who are supported by SAFEisFAST, each took part in a series of qualifying races and the Trophy’s Grand Final for Cliff Dempsey Racing.

Askew won both his heat and semi-final events, which meant the 19-year-old lined up second on the grid for the headline race. Kirkwood had to qualify through the ‘Progression Race’ on Sunday morning after he did not make it into the top nine finishers in his heat on Saturday.

But the 18-year-old from Jupiter, Florida, won that elimination round to get through to the ‘Last Chance Race’. Despite starting 33rd on the grid, Kirkwood moved through the field to finish third and join his teammate in the semi-finals.

Askew started his semi-final from pole and held on to win after a pulsating six-car battle in the closing stages with three-time Walter Hayes Trophy winner Joey Foster, Silverstone specialist Michael Moyers, Team Canada Scholarship representative Parker Thompson (who finished second in this year’s USF2000 Championship), Luke Williams and former British Formula Ford champion Richard Tarling.

Kirkwood also made it through to the Grand Final by finishing 12th in his semi-final. Niall Murray was the winner of that race, which was completed in a faster time than Askew’s and so the Irish driver started on pole for the finale as a result.

Rain hit the Silverstone track shortly after the semi-finals had been completed to add to the difficulty facing the 36 drivers starting the Grand Final.

Murray, who won the 2016 BRSCC British FF1600 Championship and the Formula Ford Festival, edged out Askew at the start, while Kirkwood fought his way all the way from 23rd to 11th after just one lap of the 1.639-mile Silverstone National circuit.

Murray escaped at the front of the pack and went on score a clear victory, while Askew initially came under pressure from Foster before weathering that challenge and pulling well clear of the chasing pack to finish second.

“These have been the best three weeks of my life,” said Askew after being presented his trophy by three-time Formula One world champion Sir Jackie Stewart. “I’m so thankful for the opportunity and what Jeremy Shaw [Team USA Scholarship founder] stands for – that being the support of young American drivers who work extremely hard to work their way to the top.

“The race today was very tense. The conditions were unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, so I had to adapt from the lights going out. I stayed in second from start to finish and tried to keep it on track for the last few laps to bring home a very memorable result.

“With five podiums out of six races here in England, I am definitely going home with a smile on my face. I hope to use this experience for the future and I hope to keep progressing in the world of motor sport.”

Kirkwood had continued to make progress toward the front after his rapid first lap and he had moved up to fifth place by lap 10 of the 15-lap race. He then climbed briefly into third place on the penultimate lap, only to be overtaken by veteran Josh Fisher on the final tour.

“I gave up third place,” Kirkwood explained afterwards. “I saw Fisher was faster than me but I didn’t know what position we were in or how many laps were left. I couldn’t see my pit board because of all the spray from the rain, so I didn’t contest the position.

“I figured I would tuck in behind but then when we went across the line he threw his hand in the air and I realised it was the last lap. It’s frustrating but it’s still been a great day. I’m happy with the result, especially compared to how it was looking yesterday.”

Speaking after the Grand Final, Shaw praised the efforts of the two Team USA drivers.

He said: “I couldn’t be happier with the performance of both of our boys and that of Cliff Dempsey Racing. I’m told they did a fabulous job of representing their country and the scholarship program in last night’s Silverstone Club drivers’ forum and they have driven magnificently both in the Formula Ford Festival and the Walter Hayes Trophy.

“If they can continue to create opportunities for themselves, there’s no doubt these two young men have extremely bright futures ahead of them. I also want to say a big thank-you to all of those who have made the Team USA Scholarship possible.”

Published on 08 November 2016 at 02:56PM by , tags , , , ,

Best of Ask a Pro: Indy 500

This year’s Indy 500 marks the 100th running of America’s premier motor race, with over 230,000 fans set to witness 33 drivers battling it out for the Borg-Warner Trophy.

Of those 33, ten have so far formed part of our Ask a Pro sessions, and we’ve picked out the best from each ahead of the green flag waving at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 29.


If the opportunity presented itself, would you recommend a few years of racing in Europe for a young driver to prepare for Indy cars? Neville Richards

James Hinchcliffe (2016 Indy 500 pole-sitter): Honestly, no. If your goal is IndyCar racing, stay in North America. Mazda has done something for young drivers that has NEVER been done before with the Road To Indy program. It is the most incredible motorsports initiative I have ever seen and makes the path so clear for young drivers. Would racing over in Europe teach a young driver a lot and be a good experience? Absolutely. No doubt. But if two kids come out of karts together, one goes to Europe for four years the other participates in the RTI with equal success and they meet up again in Indy Lights, I can tell you right now who I, and most of the IndyCar team owners, would be looking at more closely.

My goal is to race in the Indy 500 one day. What was it like when you made your debut at Indianapolis? What was going through your mind on the grid and as you came up for the green flag? Anonymous

Hinchcliffe: Every driver you ask this question will tell you the same thing. The biggest thing you notice doing those parade laps is the crowds. You pound around the Speedway all month looking at empty grandstands, and then all of a sudden the largest collection of human beings for a sporting event is sitting there staring you in the face! It makes the track seem like it’s alive. There is so much colour and movement. It really is one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced. Good luck to you, I hope you get to see it one day!

How difficult do you find it to adapt to a new race engineer? What do you suggest to speed up the communication process? Jason

Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Racing driver): It’s always difficult, Jason. A race engineer and his driver must always be on the same page. An engineer should be able to look into his driver’s eyes and know what he’s thinking before he says a word. Any sort of relationship-building time like dinners together, team meetings, phone calls – all those things – so you both get on the same page is always a big help. Relationships make this world go around, and Bill [Pappas] and I work very hard on this all the time.

How much did you learn from your dad about dealing with the media? Andrew Derby

Rahal: Lots. Spending time around him as a kid was a huge perk. Media is a massive part of our job and you have to learn how to handle it all correctly, although I am still learning as you can imagine!

Is there a mindset or specific technique used to get the most out of an ill-handling car or one that has had its tires go away severely? Mike Hedlund

Josef Newgarden (Ed Carpenter Racing): Yes, there are techniques you can use if you’re experiencing severe understeer into a corner late in the race or if understeer is becoming a trait of the car. You can use techniques to speed up some corner entrances. If you’re experiencing that understeer on-throttle, on the exit of the corner, you can try to attack the entrances more and then apply throttle later, to minimize the understeer. If you’re experiencing oversteer on entrance of a corner, then maybe you can try and slow down the speed at the entrance of the corner and then power-out of the corner quicker – if throttle-down seems to alleviate the problem. Sometimes transferring the weight back to the rear of the car, with a little bit of throttle midway through the corner, allows you to attack the exits more than the entrances. So there are various techniques you can run through in the car to try to alleviate any issues that you have.

As a racing driver, what is the largest challenge that you have to face as you work your way through your career? Sponsorship? Developing confidence? Davin Sturdivant

Newgarden: Great question. I think sponsorship and finding support is definitely the most crucial part in motor racing in this day and age. You really have to be educated about the business side of the sport. If you do not have the backing or the support, then you won’t even be able to make it to the racetrack to start developing your skills. Nowadays it really is a lot more business than actual racing, so it’s really important.

Hi, my 10-year-old son wants to some day race in F1. I am looking into karting for him to start on now. What resources are available to help guide me as to how to groom him for a life in motorsports? If this is what he wants, I would like to at least know how one could go about doing this. Thanks for your time. Scott Brunengraber

Townsend Bell (making 10th Indy 500 start): Karting is clearly the place to start. This will give you some sense of his natural ability for racing. He should show some pretty early ‘wow’ factor to be on the F1 path. I would recommend the Jim Hall Karting School in California to start, a terrific fundamental baseline to work from. SAFEisFAST and the RRDC community will be full of helpful advice from there. Best of luck.

How do you break the ice in getting sponsorship money? Do you need to visit each business/corporation in person? Some say that anything short of appearing in person is a sure way to be ignored or rejected. But it’s not possible to visit corporate headquarters for major companies all over the country and world when you have a very tiny kart racing budget. We aren’t looking for a million dollars - just something to improve our equipment. The talent is already there and documented. Do we need to hire a company to do this? Anonymous

Bell: Face to face is always the best way. That way they can’t ignore you so easily. You don’t need to go coast-to-coast, just focus on your region of the country. There’s more opportunity then you will ever have time to pursue.

You do not need to hire someone to do this for you. This process requires you to harness your passion and desire and channel it towards the sponsorship process.

There seems to be a lot of differences between racing in Europe and in North America. What is your perspective on “blocking” versus “driving defensively” – and how the rules are operated on either side of the Pond? David

Conor Daly (Dale Coyne Racing driver): I think in Europe it’s basically anything goes. I have been blocked many times over there and it has totally been against the rules but in the end unless you get wrecked, the officials don’t seem to care. INDYCAR has done a good job in enforcing the rule most of the time and in reality I do think you need a rule against blocking. I think driving defensively is acceptable and creates the best racing, but all-out blocking is dangerous.

Do you believe that a disabled driver (such as myself) would have a chance to be seen as more than a gimmick? If so where should I start without having funding? James Harvey

Daly: I believe anyone has a chance. I don’t necessarily have an answer exactly to how you would do it since I’m not familiar with your disability but if you’ve got the pure driving talent, someone will notice. Again the funding question is hard to answer. Go to anyone you know and anyone those people might know and ask them for help. See if you can find someone (who has money) who really believes in you and your program and will help you get off the ground.“

If there isn’t a way you can overtake the car in front of you in a race, do you follow and wait for the driver to make a mistake, suffer a mechanical problem or drive on the edge? Jeffrey Fitterman

Will Power (2014 Verizon IndyCar Champion): Well, in IndyCar if you can’t pass, we’ll just sit there and save fuel and tires, while keeping within a couple of seconds of them so that you can jump them during a pit stop. Otherwise, if you see them struggle in front of you with a bit of tire degradation, then you’ll put a little more pressure on them, which will cause he/she to use his/her tires up a bit more and generally makes them more prone to making a mistake. Then you have a better chance of passing him/her. Every situation in racing is different. That’s the one key thing to remember. You’ve got to be versatile with the fact the conditions and situations are constantly changing and never the same in racing.

With today’s drivers starting younger and younger, is it now impossible to become a good driver if you only begin racing consistently after the age of 21? Byron Daley

Power: It’s not impossible to become a good driver if you start after the age of 21. It’s all about learning and understanding what it takes to be fast. Obviously, when you start as a kid you gain a lot of experience through the years of karting and the junior categories, but I wouldn’t say that it’s impossible. I think within five years you could become a pretty good driver if you’re doing it consistently.

Hi Alex. As you moved up the ranks, what was the most difficult part in graduating to more powerful cars and, in hindsight, is there anything that you would have done different to prepare? Mark Keller

Alexander Rossi (Indy 500 rookie): I think that the most difficult thing when moving to bigger cars is the fact that you have to trust something that exceeds your expectations. For example, it isn’t so logical that you will be able to decelerate at above 5g longitudinal, but you have to be able to understand that the car has the capability to. And like anything, once you do it, the next time becomes easier and easier. That is the same with everything that is associated with the bigger cars – the acceleration, lateral grip and direction change.

I am about to move up from karts. I am excited but at the same time, I know this is an important step in my career and I need results. Do you have any advice on how to best prepare to make this move up? John A.

Rossi: Patience. The first time that I got into a racecar, it was a complete shock and I would be lying if I said it was successful. I would say that the biggest difference that you have to be prepared for is the fact that everything in a racecar feels as though it is happening in slow motion, even though that sounds counterintuitive, as a kart obviously does not have the pace, because it is lacking suspension and the movements are instant. Whereas in the racecar, when the driver inputs into the car, it has to go through springs and dampers before you will actually feel the result in the tyre. This requires you to be much smoother with your driving style as there is a much smaller margin for error as things take so much longer to happen.

How much do you have to manage your tires in an IndyCar? Is it the same as F1? What techniques do you use to keep the tires working well during a long race? James Manning

Takuma Sato (AJ Foyt Racing driver): I think it’s similar but it really depends on how much degradation you will have. Generally the tires provided in IndyCar from Firestone show a great performance in terms of durability but sometimes we see a big challenge for it too. We have both soft and hard tires in road/street courses but one spec in the ovals. Soft compounds tends to wear quicker, naturally, so you have to manage it more carefully than hard tires – that is the same as in F1. To get the best performance from the tires is always great challenge. This would be affected massively by the setup and balance of the car. Neither too much understeer nor oversteer works in favour for the durability so the driver has to carefully manage any sliding. Minimize the slide would be the best way to keep them working, and often slightly lower tire pressures work well for both grip and better drop-off – but you will get unsupported feeling and worse grip before tires come right on to the proper temperature and pressure. When I talk about temperature, I mean not on tread because that makes less grip and you will get this by sliding the tires; you need a good temperature in core – that generates good grip. So it’s interesting because you need to adapt your driving style and technique. It’s important to understand the physics and engineering side too.

Are there any aspects of driving in Formula 1 that you would say have helped your IndyCar career? Marc Cohn

Sato: Well, there are quite a few. F1 and IndyCar are different in many aspects but ultimately it’s both ultimate competitive racing. The things I experienced in F1 might not be able to convert directly into IndyCar but dealing with engineers and team members, the way we set up the car, the importance of usage of tires, pit stops, driving techniques, etc., has many similarities. I had to learn a lot in IndyCar but I have enjoyed exploring the new racing world for me, and everything is very exciting. Certainly, the standing start for the first time in IndyCar history at Toronto worked for me very well! :)

I’m 20 years old, I have no money and no real experience; all I have is a passion and a dream. I just don’t know where to start. How would someone like me make it into racing? Is it possible? Noel Rivera

J.R Hildebrand (2011 Indy 500 runner-up): It’s definitely possible, more difficult, but undoubtedly possible. I think a great way to start in this day and age is to get online driving a real simulated racing program like iRacing and work on all the fundamental techniques of both driving and racing. From there, with that basic knowledge of how things work, you’ll have to get out and feel it for yourself in a go-kart, really the most effective (and cost effective) way to continue to learn. You can do that in an arrive-and-drive setting pretty easily in a lot of places. Then you’ve got to be smart about where you go from there if all is going to plan. Scholarship contests definitely exist in racing, that’s something to keep an eye out for, for sure.

If there was one piece of advice concerning, or knowledge pertaining to, the lifestyle of being a professional racing driver that you wish you would have known at the beginning of your career, what would it be? Thanks for your time! Sean Johnson

Hildebrand: Great question. I think that it’s definitely possible to be blindsided by the time commitment that is required to appease sponsors, manufacturers and other entities, but I also think that is generally ingrained in drivers from a young age in this day and age. For me the element that I wish I had realized played a significant role earlier on is how much the driver becomes an integral part of everything that the team does. When they hand you the keys to the “big car” as we call it, you also assume a lot of responsibility, much more than at any other level before that. That was the most difficult thing to adjust to for me when I got to the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Tony, in looking back over your successful career, is there any thing you would have done differently in reflection? Thanks. Jack, Aspiring Racer

Tony Kanaan (2013 Indy 500 winner): Jack, I don’t think so. I left Brazil when I was basically a kid and went to Italy because I wanted to be in F1. I did my best there and although I didn’t get to F1, my effort during my years in Europe gave me the opportunity to come to the U.S. and be successful at what I do. Never give up.

Hi Mr. Kanaan, do you have any tips on oval racing for someone who will be doing his first oval race? Thank you. Anonymous

Kanaan: Yes, respect is the word. It’s a steep learning curve and you have to take it one step at a time. Good luck!

Tough day for Team SAFEisFast at iRacing Sebring

Team SAFEisFAST went to Sebring on a high from its recent success at the 24 hours of Daytona. The team entered two Daytona Prototype’s and one McLaren GT3 car. There were also a lot of new faces on the team to fill the roster for the three cars, which will continue for the remainder of the 2016 season and some of the longer races.

Sebring iRacing

The #18 DP team (Kevin Enderman, Pablo R Silveira, Wyatt Winfield, Dave Beland) was qualified in fourth place by Kevin Endermann and at the start he moved up to second and was fighting for the lead. Enderman was faster than the leader and after being patient he was able to gain the lead for 45 mins before the end of his stint.

Enderman handed over the car to Silveira, who continued on with a solid run. He reported he had three moments but they did not result in any spins or damage. Silveira then handed the car over to Winfield. He put in laps and the team managed to stay around the battle for fourth and third as the pitstop sequences were worked out.

Winfield handed the car back to Silveira at around the halfway point of the race. He was in fourth when he had a bit of a moment with a lapped BMW. There was some light contact that caused the other car to spin, but both continued without major problems.

After that, Beland got in the car for the first time in fifth. Beland reported that he had an uneventful double stint in the car until his final pit stop when another Daytona Prototype dive-bombed him as he was about to pit and they made contact. This almost caused Beland to spin the car. Although he was able to save the moment, he made an unsafe pit entry during the recovery and received a 15 second penalty as a result.

As the race finished the #18 car crossed the line in 5th place with a two-lap cushion to sixth place.

The #9 DP team (Jeremy Robles, Sergey Pupko Jr, Drew Bickel) had qualified in second place thanks to Robles, but at the start he got passed and moved back to third. Later that lap, at turn 17, he capitalized on a mistake and attempted to regain second but then a bit of a bad moment with a GT car that spun Robles and he made contact with the wall. The resulting pit stop to repair the damage lost the car one lap.

Pupko Jr took over as the car was in 11th place and over his 90-minute stint he managed to battle back to fifth place as he showed good pace (the same as the leader) and to fight back up the field.

Bickel then got in the car, but about 10 laps into his stint his computer monitor went black, which forced him to restart the PC. During the time it took to re-boot his computer the team was losing laps. Bickel got back in the car and was pushing hard we he went wide into the grass at Turn 16, lost control of the rear and spun into the inside wall. This caused an eight-minute suspension repair.

Robles got back into the car and battled hard with laptimes that were again on the same pace of the leaders. He had put in almost a full 90-minute stint when his house’s electricity went out. As he races on a laptop which is hooked up to a flat screen TV he could still hear the car running, but there was no power flowing to his TV or steering wheel. Fortunately, iRacing just reset the car to the pit lane without damage as Robles had no internet connection.

Pupko Jr then jumped into the car for 45 minutes while Robles fixed his issues and had no problems. Robles then came back for another 45-minute stint and both drivers were battling back in ninth place. After that, Bickel got back in the car after making some changes to his graphics driver to prevent the screen freezes.

Bickel was pushing pretty hard because the car had the pace. He passed most of the top five and even the leader to gain laps back. He then caught up to seventh and passed him on the track and pulled out a 10-second gap before he needed to pit.

Robles got back in the car and emerged in eighth on the same lap as the car running in seventh and he moved up to sixth when the two cars in front both pitted.

Bickel returned to the car for the final hour and had a two-lap cushion over the car behind and when the team running in fifth pitted he made up one lap and was right behind them on the track as he crossed the finish line in sixth.

Victor started for The SAFEisFAST GT team in an all GT field of 42 cars. He made it to lap nine when he had a slide and tried to save it, but he hit the wall and caused 13 minutes of repair time. After the pitstop the car lost a bit of speed but wasn’t too compromised overall.

Jason Hall is a new driver to our GT team and he produced a strong and uneventful stint, which featured only a small spin but no damage. Caeton Bomersbach is another new driver and he took over the wheel after Hall. He did kept it clean, but a small spin at one point meant he had to fight his way from 33rd place to 29th.

Chris Beaufait also joined the team and he kept things clean and putting in a steady pace throughout his stint. He gave plenty of room to lapping GT cars and keeping the car clean during his stint.

Mathieu, one of the original team members when SAFEisFAST was founded who left the team to manage his own HPD prototype team, was welcomed back for this race. He did two full stints (60 laps) with zero damage and no drama.

After that, Bomersbach got back in the car and was putting in consistent laps. But as he let the leader by he went a bit wide and picked up some dirt on the tyres (a new feature to iRacing) and this caused him to spin and some small repairs. Bomersbach then felt a bit tired so he handed the car back to Mathieu to fill in for him.

Ed did his stints and without much practice time due to work. He had no major issues and near the end of the race the team was really working hard to gain back ground. Ed handed over to Bomersbach, who took over for the final hour. He came out of the pits in P22 and kept that position to the end of the race.

All three teams had strong races and battled through the hard times. Endurance racing is all about making the best out of what you given with and adapting with it. 12 hours is a long race and Sebring is one of the toughest tracks in the world.

Team SAFEisFAST Final Result: DP #18 Team: Position 5th

DP #9 Team: Position 6th GT3 Team: Positon 22nd

Published on 29 March 2016 at 10:39AM by , tags ,

Podium Place For Team SAFEisFAST at iRacing Daytona

Team SAFEisFAST came away from the 2016 iRacing 24 Hours of Daytona with a runners-up podium in the Daytona Prototype (DP) Class, and with the GT3 team finishing a competitive 8th.

The team competes in the Endurance Championship in iRacing, an online motor racing simulator where users can take part in a range of different classes and competitions at various virtual real-world circuits.

It was a highly successful outing for the DP team, with driver Sergey Pupko qualifying the SAFEisFAST Corvette C7 in pole position, a lead that was kept by the driver for the first 45 laps, until braking problems occurred.

Despite a few technical issues, the team, made up of drivers Nick Cote, Dave Beland, Steve Bammer and Jeremy Robles did a fantastic job in keeping the car well placed in 2nd.

The GT3 team however, consisting of Ed Benson, Vitor Bras, Pablo Silveira, Jacob Schneider, Philip Goodwin, Christopher Miller and Steve Coe, had their work cut out before their race had even commenced.

Silveira was forced to jump into the car with a mere ten seconds left until grid time concluded, following an untimely technical internet problem for Bras.

Despite the early issues, the SAFEisFAST GT3 team pulled together and managed to fight their way up to 2nd position. Unfortunately a tire incident resulted in repairs and summoned the team back to 6th. With fatigue playing a part in the early morning, the team went on to finish a respectable 8th.

Dave Beland, Owner and Driver of Team SAFEisFAST, said: “Our week started off very well, with competitive practice times, testing setups, and working through strategy for qualifying for the best possible positions. Both cars sustained minor damage throughout the race which held us back. Both the DP team and the GT team will regroup now and get ready for the 12 Hours of Sebring in March.”

Published on 04 February 2016 at 04:05PM by , tags ,


Three aspiring racers have won places at some of the best race schools across the world – Allen Berg Race School in the US, Motor Sport Vision Race Academy in the UK and Meritus.GP in Malaysia – following the latest competition.

The winners are: Josh McCormack from the US, Tom Hutchins from the UK and Nick Lim from Malaysia. They have each won a place in one of the top race schools in their respective countries.

Allen Berg Racing School has offered the winner the choice between two outstanding racing programmes (beginner and advanced) at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circuit in California, both run by former F1 driver Allen Berg.

Motor Sport Vision Race Academy will treat this year’s UK based winner to a pinpoint one-day tuition session, with instructor training in race techniques, such as defensive driving and starts. The course will also offer the opportunity to take a National B driving licence or Advanced ARDS test.

Meritus.GP, which runs the AsiaCup Series junior development programme at the Sepang F1 circuit, has offered the winner a full day test in the Championship’s Formula BMW car. More so, Meritus.GP is generously gifting a huge $10,000 discount from the championship entrance fee, should the winner decide to enter the series following the test day prize. wishes all three young drivers the best of luck at their respective race schools and for the rest of their racing careers.

Published on 21 January 2016 at 04:18PM by , tags , , , , ,

Win a Place at a Top-Level Racing School Worldwide is offering the chance for three aspiring racers from across the world to win a day of training at a top racing school in the US, Europe or Asia.

In the US, the Allen Berg Racing School is offering one winner the choice of two programmes at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circuit in California. There is a one-day programme aimed at beginner drivers to learn the fundamental elements of racing a single-seater car, and a one-day lapping programme, which covers all the elements of a test day and encourages drivers to refine and improve their existing skills.

In the UK, Motor Sport Vision is offering one winner a place on its Race Academy. This is a one-day programme featuring one-to-one instructor training in race techniques, such as defensive driving and starts. The course also includes a National B racing licence or Advanced Association of Racing Drivers Schools (ARDS) test.

In Malaysia, Meritus.GP, which runs the AsiaCup Series junior driver development programme at the Sepang F1 circuit, is offering a full day test in the championship’s Formula BMW car. The AsiaCup will become the FIA Formula 4 South East Asia series in 2016 and Meritus.GP are also offering a huge $10,000 discount from the championship entrance fee if a suitable graduate decides to enter series following the test day.


Published on 22 December 2015 at 10:01AM by , tags , , , , , ,

Honda Performance Development to fund karting champions

SAFEisFAST partner Honda Performance Development (HPD) is helping to boost the career of up-and-coming karting racers.

One of the initiatives supported by HPD gives the next SuperKarts USA S1 class champion financial assistance to make the transition into the inaugural Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Pro Racing Formula 4 US Championship series in 2016.

HPD has teamed up with SCCA Pro Racing and Crawford Composites to assist the S1 champion make the next step in their racing career by providing discounts to help with the cost of an F4 car and its engine, as well as the series’ entry fee.

The winner will receive a $3,500 discount towards an F4 chassis, a series entry fee waiver to the value of $6,000 and an F4 engine lease, which is provided by HPD, worth $6,600.

As the awards package was announced, Robert Clarke, President of SCCA Pro Racing, said: “The fundamental premise of the F4 program is to create the opportunities to develop that next generation of racers. From our strict cost controls to our driver-development efforts, the F4 US Championship is focused on accessibility, affordability, and competitive racing.”

“This awards package is another example of how HPD endeavours to support the grassroots racing community,” said Jeff Barrow, HPD’s commercial motorsports manager. “Many of the great Honda racers got their starts in karting, and we see this as a natural bridge between the two series.”

“SKUSA is pleased to have a cooperative alliance with SCCA Pro Racing and the F4 United States Championship,” said Tom Kutscher, owner and CEO of SuperKarts USA. “Both entities represent the premier organisations in their respective circles, and Superkarts USA is pleased to provide the platform for young talent to flourish. For those interested in pursuing a career in motorsport, or those looking to continue in karting, we couldn’t be more pleased.”

The awards take immediate effect with the order of the Crawford F4 chassis, the signing of the Honda F4 engine lease agreement and a commitment to the full 2016 SCCA Pro F4 championship program, which consists of 15 total races at five venues, beginning with the inaugural race weekend at Lime Rock Park on 27-28 May. For more information on the F4 US Championship, click here.

Published on 02 December 2015 at 01:00PM by , tags , , , , , , ,

Top 10 Finish for Team SAFEisFAST

Team SAFEisFAST achieved a ninth place finish in iRacing’s 24 Hours of Spa, its best result of the season so far.

The team competes in the iRacing Endurance Championship, driving a RUF Porsche in the GT3 class. For the uninitiated, iRacing is an online motor racing simulator that emphasises realism and competition for it’s 55,000 plus members. Users can compete in a range of different classes and competitions at various different real-world circuits.

To ensure they had the enough drivers to cope with the rigours of a 24 hour race, the team brought on board Jean Deslauries, Nickolas Cote and Vitor Bras alongside regulars Dave Beland, Ed Benson and Drew Bickel. The six man squad took the decision to start from the pit lane to avoid any first lap incidents and with Beland at the wheel they progressed steadily, mixing it up with the 39 other cars on track during the early stages of the race.

On lap 13 a rival attempted a risky passing manoeuvre that resulted in slight damage to the SAFEisFAST car, but nothing serious enough to warrant a pit stop. However a second incident with just minutes to go in his stint, where he was cut off by another car and spun into a wall, resulted in more serious damage.

Benson took over driving duties after eight minutes worth of repairs in the pits, clawing his way back up the pack before Bras’ stint behind the wheel. Together they had managed to get up into 13th place at the quarter distance of the race, handing the car to Bickel who built upon their work, moving up a few places and cracking the top 10.

At the half way stage the team was confident of a solid finish, but a spin during Deslauries’ shift and a few technical problems for Benson and Bickel resulted in a loss of time, jeopardizing their hard work.

With the car now running in 13th Deslauries took over again determined to make up for their lack of fortune. He regained the lost time and battled his way back up to 9th before the final hour. Bras was behind the wheel for the last stint and fought hard until then end, closing in on eighth place but fell just short of taking the position. As well as top 10 class finish, Team SAFEisFAST was also the highest placed Porsche RUF in the race.

Beland, the team’s owner, commented: “Our main goal was to keep it safe and finish the race. Vitor Bras came up with an excellent setup that was very stable as well as very competitive for all the drivers on our team. The team had a great time competing, cheering one another on, while also providing words of encouragement and support. The SAFEisFAST RUF sustained some minor damage throughout the race, but none of the incidents kept us in the pits for very long.”

Published on 14 August 2015 at 12:06PM by , tags

Best of Ask a Pro: Sponsorship

Alongside driving techniques, one of the most common questions in our Ask a Pro series is about how to get sponsorship. While there is no magic formula to acquire it, we’ve compiled the best answers and advice from our pros so you can increase your chances of finding that all-important backing.

I’m an 11-year-old go-karter and I’m having difficulty finding sponsors due to the lack of having something to offer them in return for their financial support. What can I do to help persuade someone to invest in me at this point in my career? David Sims Jr.

Dario Franchitti (Four-time IndyCar Champion): Jackie Stewart always taught me that regardless of what stage you’re at, you should think about what you can offer the sponsor in terms of value.

It may not be exposure or any of the traditional things, but it might be the emotional value of getting involved. I think that’s the key. Funnily enough, in my current memorabilia area, I have a letter my grandmother wrote to Jackie when I was racing go-karts, asking that very same question, and that was the advice he gave.

If you have the opportunity and you have a friend who you think can help, or friends of friends, go to people you know. Don’t just go to anonymous companies; go to people that you or somebody around you has a connection with.

What is the most important thing for a young aspiring race car driver to do in order to get their name out into the racing world? Sam Adams

Will Buxton (F1 pit lane reporter for NBC): Well you’re well on the way with a great name. If you don’t pick up sponsorship from a certain American brewery then there’s something wrong. First thing… win. You can be the nicest guy in the world but if you don’t get the results, there’s no foundation for anything.

Well I say that… there are some drivers who have never won a thing in their life but who have somehow sweet talked their way into frankly mind boggling deals. But nobody gives them any credit, and rightly so. Be a racer. Be hard but fair. Be gracious. Learn, with every corner and every lap. Don’t dwell in the past. Move on quickly but use the experience. Give your time: to your team, to your sponsors, to your fans. Talk to everyone you can, even the press. Be open but don’t be a door matt. Everyone get’s screwed, but only an idiot gets screwed the same way twice. Allow people to know you and what drives you.

Make your dream their dream. Take them with you on your incredible journey. Never, ever, think you’re better than you are. Be humble, be genuine, be kind and friendly. Then pull your helmet on, lower the visor, and kick ass.

What advice would you give to grassroots competitors about acquiring sponsorship from both local and, potentially, national/global companies? Ryan Lower

Andy Lally (Three-time Grand AM Champion): I’m certainly not an expert in this area but in my opinion you need to start with and then build on three things. For a legitimate sponsor to get behind you or your team for business reasons, you need to be able to show an obvious return on investment (ROI).

If you can establish that, the second thing you may need to show them is that you are the right image for them and someone that they will be proud to have as an ambassador for their product in whatever media you will be part of.

The third thing will come as you interact with people within their organization. Your goal is to try and grow roots and become an integral part of their organization. You will need to build personal relations in a business atmosphere and get to know the guys at the head office – the president, the head of marketing and anyone that who may even KNOW these people.

These decision-makers are human, they have friends, and they are influenced. When the entire office or department is talking about what a good guy you are and how personable you are, it is a lot easier to keep your deal going year after year.

Are there any tips for increasing followers on social media? I am a driver in the junior ranks. Also, is this something that potential sponsors look at? Thanks for your time and help. Anonymous

James Hinchcliffe (IZOD IndyCar driver): This is a huge element of our sport. Sponsors definitely look at what your ‘reach’ is on social media. The best way to gain followers is to interact.

Interact with fans, sponsors, series and other drivers. In a way social media growth comes from word of mouth, so the more mouths talking to you the better chance you have of growing.

Do you have any advice on the sponsorship side of the sport? Kerry Nelson

Alexander Rossi (GP2 driver): It is very important to make sure that you are seen and noticed to attract as much sponsorship as possible. The reality is that motorsport is incredibly expensive and in order to raise he appropriate amount of funds needed, there is no black and white answer.

You definitely need to find your “hook” and develop that so you are targeting the correct companies and brands that fit your image.

I have been struggling for the past 2/3 years to acquire sponsorships to go out and race. Contact with teams and interest from racing teams isn’t a problem as I have been offered to race in F3 before, but I just don’t have the fund to compete. What advice would you give to young racing drivers struggling to acquire sponsorship to go out and race? Daniel Justice

Bruno Senna (Former F1, current Formula E driver): Finding funds to race in Europe is always tough, especially if you’re a foreigner. Normally it’s less difficult to race in your own country as the sponsors get more local brand exposure (except for F1, of course).

A few countries, such as Brazil and the US have sports sponsorship policies where sponsors can deduct some of their taxes if they’re supporting their local talent, so maybe you could look into something like this. Best of luck!

What is the best way to gain sponsors in motorsport? Luk

Karun Chandhok (Former F1, current Formula E driver): Raising sponsorship is very difficult in this sport. There are a lot of fast drivers all chasing the same money so you need to discover your USP I suppose. You need to try and leverage that in the best way possible – it could be your nationality, race, colour, looks or personality.

Graham, obviously one of the issues about switching from karts to cars is finding sponsorship. As you deal with big sponsors often, what are the keys to securing a sponsorship? Where would you or your team look for sponsors? Jeff Drake

Graham Rahal (IndyCar Series race winner): Sponsorship is all about giving whatever the company may be the biggest return on its investment. Keeping that in mind, think “business-to-business” – how can you link a couple of companies together that need to or can do business together and then you benefit from it? Look at it as a business relationship where multiple companies have marketing budgets but with you they can do it together and cheaper. I think securing sponsorship is always about finding something special that sets you apart from others. Drivers often overlook what makes them special to a company. At the end of the day, the companies are sponsoring you, not just the race car you drive!

How exactly do you work on sponsorship deals? Do you work through connections or cold calls? If both, which seems to work the best and do you have to take different approaches to each? Thanks again and best of luck finding a ride for next season! Andrew Pinkerton

Conor Daly (IndyCar series driver): It is harder than ever to get support for anything, but at the moment I’m just trying to get introductions to people through people I already know. If you can get in touch with people who might be interested through a person who you are already friends with, that might open a door more easily for you. I’m hoping it does in my situation at least! Always be looking for business-to-business deals as well. Those are happening more often than regular corporate sponsorship these days.

How can an amateur with little funding get started in racing? Michael

Oliver Gavin (Four-time Le Mans class winner): Any driver will tell you how difficult it is these days; it’s never been easy but it’s even more difficult in today’s economy. Most people will start in karting to learn their race craft and that’s what I did. My Dad bought a kart for me and my brother and he used to run it, with us learning how it worked and how to work on it, all really good training for the future. From there I moved onto car racing, with my Dad paying the way to begin with and then with some sponsorship as I moved up. Getting sponsorship is mostly about who you know, rather than what you know, and think about what you can do for a sponsor instead of what they can do for you and you’ll have more success. Anyone can go karting, at any age, or you could do something like stock cars or dirt racing…do whatever you can within your budget and have fun.

Published on 16 July 2015 at 01:14PM by , tags


Cornering and braking are two of the most important skills that you need to master if you are going to be a successful racing driver. We have chosen a selection of answers from different drivers in our Ask a Pro series that give you an insight into how to improve those skills and make you a better driver.

It seems I hear a number of conflicting philosophies on braking techniques among amateur sports car racers. Could you describe your main technical approaches to braking for corners of different speeds? For example, deciding whether you trail brake, late brake or touch the brakes to settle the car, etc.

Alex Wurz (Former Formula One driver and Le Mans winner): It is impossible to give you one answer. Each car, each tyre, each corner might require a different braking method. Braking methods are something that should not be fixed, as during a race one might have to change the braking method. The brakes are extremely important for the car’s balance, so depending upon what balance you like to have by the turn-in or mid corner, you can change your braking style and brake balance.

For example, if you are racing with high tyre degradation on the rear, you will change your driving line so you will need to change your braking method.

Personally I like to trail brake. As I come off the brake it needs to be timed with turning in. I turn in usually very smooth and come off the brake progressively and coordinate that with the steering and weight transfer of the car – basically making sure that at all times of the braking and cornering I use the maximum possible force the tyre can transmit!

If my car would be nervous on turn-in, I would keep the brake pressure a little longer and move the brake balance a bit forward, so I overload the front tyre and with that I protect/help the rear at the turn-in area. However if you do this, you need to come off the brakes very gently. Otherwise you might create an oversteer at the moment when you come off the brakes when the front tyre is freed of the braking force and has full lateral steering force available instantly. That might cause a sudden oversteer as your front tyre will steer the car and if the rear is still not stable at this point, oversteer is logical….

Well, maybe it gets too complicated now but bottom line, a tyre can transmit a certain amount of forces and you have four tyres. Two of them can steer and four of them can brake so the best braking method is a question of how the rest of the corner looks. I am afraid there is no easy answer.

Can you please explain what is meant by “trail-braking.” Is this the best technique to use?

Gil de Ferran (Multiple Champ Car champion and 2003 Indy 500 winner): To be honest, I never quite understood the terminology! I suppose trail-braking refers to the technique of carrying some brake pressure into the turn.

Possibly the most important part of driving fast is braking – well, that is of course when you don’t have to drive flat-out all the way around! How you brake depends on the type of corner you are approaching, what preceded the braking event, what type of car and tires you are driving, how it is handling, the conditions of your tires, brakes, etc

One has to remember that the brakes not only slow down your speed but also significantly affect the load distribution around the car and, therefore, the handling. So, it is a tool you can use to change the turn-in characteristics of your car, amongst other things.

A good driver MUST understand and feel how best to apply the brakes in different situations and during different phases of the braking zone. It is no good to have a single braking technique; one’s repertoire must encompass various techniques that can be used as needed

What do you find works best for you for pinpointing your braking and turning references? Thanks.

Conor Daly (IndyCar driver): If you do enough research before you get on track you should already have an idea of where you are going to brake. Once you get on track you go to that point and if it’s too early you adjust for that and if it’s too late just bring it back slightly. Turn in points will depend on how you are driving the car and what kind of balance the car has. Sometimes your turn in point will change depending on the balance of the car so you have to be prepared to adjust your driving on the fly.

My biggest problem is I tend to overdrive my corners. I know I should brake earlier and lightly to get on the power prior to the apex, but it seems really hard to do especially when racing with someone. Do you have any advice or hints on the best way to accomplish this?

James Hinchcliffe (IndyCar driver and race winner): At the end of the day, practice makes perfect. The more seat time you spend working on that, the stronger you will be at it. I know it’s hard to think too much about it when you’re out there and focused on driving at the limit, so a good trick is to start a session slow. Do a few laps at 80%, really think through the technique you want to work on, then go 5% faster each lap until you’re back at the limit. Hopefully, going through it a few times at a reduced pace will make it come naturally when you’re flat out.

What is your strategy for negotiating hairpin turns?

J.R. Hildebrand (IndyCar driver): We have actually had a few hairpins this year to work on this, and one of the things that I’ve found to be particularly advantageous in terms of finding lap time is really maximizing the amount of entry speed you carry into a hairpin. In the Indy car, it’s very difficult to put power to the ground in a tight hairpin corner until the car is close to straight out of the corner, and even at that point you’ll still spin the tires some. So even though it seems like you can get the car straighter sooner by turning in late and apexing late, that doesn’t end up equating to much additional exit speed because you still don’t really end up being able to get to full throttle until you’ve gotten your hands almost entirely freed up out at the edge of the track. So instead we have found a noted gain in turning a bit sooner and carrying the deceleration into the corner, using the scrub created by the act of turning even to some extent, to basically get from Point A at the entry of the corner, to Point B where the car is straight and full throttle can be applied at the edge of the road a tenth or two quicker. I’d draw it for you but I’m not quite that handy with just a keyboard. In lower horsepower cars, that is probably slightly less of a necessity, but still certainly something to try if you find you’re lacking a bit of pace.

Do you use reference points for braking, turning, accelerating, etc., or do you focus on visual memory?

Sergio Perez (Formula One driver): No, I use braking references most of the time. We have the marks by meters so I use them as a reference and once you brake, then you start to feel when you should turn, when you should go on power and so on.

Have you had to use degressive braking techniques and which car did you use them in?

Derek Bell (Former Formula One driver and multiple Le Mans winner): I have to say I have never been one to lock up brakes that much but it happens from time to time when in sheer panic you keep your right foot down too hard. In sports cars we always had that compromise to not lock up the wheels otherwise we were going to lose time and have extra tyre changes, as well as the brake wear! As John Wyer used to say, you need: ‘Good hands.’

How do you push your braking point to find the optimal time to brake without ruining your tires?

Karun Chandhok (Former Formula One driver): I think experience counts for a lot with braking. Over time, you learn that an F1 car can brake from a high speed to slow speed in 60 – 70 meters and a LMP Sports car in a 100 meters or a GT car in 150 meters. Your brain develops these references I suppose and then you just tweak it depending on the track, tyres, weather conditions or fuel loads. You also need good feel through your foot to know when the tyres are starting to lock.

For a medium to high-speed turn coming off a long straight – so NO threshold braking and maybe just a lift – how do you gauge braking points and duration and corner entry speed such that you can work up to a consistently fast and safe high-speed turn?

Josef Newgarden (IndyCar driver and race winner): First of all, you’re going to need to understand what type of braking capability the car you are driving has, whether it’s an open-wheel car, sports car or sedan. Once you’ve determined that, I recommend you do a track walk to go around and view the different corners. When you’re doing this, you’re going to want to look for reference points, which will give you a sight picture that you can judge when you’re entering a corner, and build up a picture in your mind so you can work up to the optimal braking point. You can pick cones, for instance. When you are on the track in your race car, if you’re entering a mid-speed corner and they have four cones, then you can start braking at the “four” cone and if that’s too early you can work up to the “three” cone and so on. If there are no cones, you can look for curbs or trees or walls or anything that gives you a visual reference. Then it’s just a question of doing as many laps as you can and working up your corner-entry speed as you gain more experience of each particular turn.

I drive a vintage car in road racing and visit Lime Rock, Watkins Glen, VIR, Summit Point, etc. The car is an Elva MK7S which is a rear engine sports racer from 1964 with four wheel coil-overs and a total weight of 1000 lbs. with 200 hp. Oversteering is the main problem because the weight distribution is 70/30. My question is: when I am in the beginning or middle of a turn and I am carrying too much speed, what is my best fix? When I let off the throttle, the back will come around. When I apply braking the car will understeer and leave the track. Thanks for any help.

Simona de Silvestro (IndyCar driver): You shouldn’t be going into the corner on the throttle, so that may be part of the problem. I don’t usually see any corners where you should have throttle on going in – middle yes (middle to the exit). To me the biggest thing is to brake really late and try to get the slowing down part done as much as you can while you’re going straight, before you start turning the wheel. I’ve always been the kind of driver that carries speed through the corners, so I’m more the type of person that’s going to get into the corner with maybe just a little bit of brake, but getting off the brake really early and letting the car roll so that you’re asking a little bit less from the car. If you add brake then the front tires are going to be under even more pressure because you’re asking the front to turn and to brake at the same time and if you’re accelerating you have to wait until the car is pointed in the right direction. To me the biggest thing is to try to slow down as straight as you can and then as you start releasing the brakes turn into the corner. When you feel the car set then you can apply the throttle.

I’ve been accepted to race in the 2013 Scirocco R-Cup Championship in Europe. The car has a DSG gearbox, so no clutch. Would you advise left-foot braking at all? All cars I have driven prior to this have had a clutch so I have had to right-foot brake. Is there a major advantage by left-foot braking or does it really just depend on driver preference?

Joey Hand (Daytona 24 Hours winner): I would recommend doing what you are most comfortable with, for sure. I am a left-foot braker since I came from karting. Luckily, when I moved to cars, I went directly into formula cars that had “dog” boxes and did not require using the clutch. It wasn’t until I moved to sports cars that I had to learn to use the clutch – and that was only in the Continental Challenge cars that had a stock synchro gearbox from a street car. The only time left-foot braking becomes critical is when the transfer from throttle to brake is really quick. So I’d say LMP cars, Indy cars, DTM and F1, for example. In the BMW M3s in ALMS last year, four of us shared the driving – two left-foot braked and two right-foot braked! It’s all about you and your style. One thing I learned is that right-foot braking can be better for fuel mileage so I had to adapt my left-foot style to ensure I burned a similar amount of fuel as the right-foot guys. I learned this early in my sports car days. So the moral of the story is, even though the car you will drive has no clutch I would stick to what you know. It will probably be better for your apex speed to right-foot brake because the crossover time from brake back to throttle allows the car to roll a bit. Good luck.

Published on 09 June 2015 at 01:40PM by , tags